On the grass

Heather Elliott was working as a landscape designer in Matamata when she heard that a wholesale nursery on the outskirts of Tauranga she often bought plants from was up for sale.

“I used to plant so many liriopes in my designs that I thought I ought to grow them myself – so I bought the business.”

Heather Elliot in her nursery. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Ace Mondo was established at Pyes Pa in 2000 and specialises in mondo grasses and the perennial liriopes (muscari and spicata) that also feature attractive autumn flowers.

“Mondo is a great plant for low-maintenance gardens – no weeds will come through it once it’s established and most varieties look good all the time,” Heather says.

Ophiopogon intermedians ‘Alba Variegata’ is also known as ‘Stripey White’. Photo: Sandra Simpson

For something different in mondo, Heather recommends the “pom-pom” Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto’, which grows only 5cm high, or Ophiopogon intermedians ‘Alba Variegata’, which has almost white leaves when grown in sun or green with a white edge when grown in shade.

“Mondo has far more potential than people realise,” Heather says. “People tend to put it in containers but it will have a limited life in a pot.”

She also worries that the popular black mondo (Ophiopogon planiscapus Black Dragon) is rarely used in a way that shows it off. “Plant it under silver birches,” Heather suggests. “It looks magnificent against the white trunks, but do try and leave it alone once it’s in. It doesn’t like a lot of fussing.”

Liriope muscari ‘Gold Band’. Photo: Ace Mondo

Liriope spicata ‘Franklin Mint’, also called ‘Green Carpet’, has more grass-like foliage than other liriopes with the bonus of lilac flowers in summer.

“Liriopes are a great plant to let naturalise on, say, banks or under trees and they can take drought too. People often mistake them for a bulb, but they’re rooting plants that are easy to increase by division.”

Heather has always worked in horticulture – her first job was picking apples in Nelson before heading off to study at Lincoln. Before buying Ace Mondo, she and her husband had a 40.5ha asparagus farm in Waikato.

“A change of pace was required,” she says. “We had a young family and 70 staff at the season’s peak. It was full-on.”

For more information see the Ace Mondo website or phone 027 416 4445.

This article was originally published in the Bay of Plenty Times and appears here with permission.

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